The Minnesota Wild are now 1-2 on their 4 game road trip losing Thursday night to the Tampa Bay Lightning by a 3-1 final score. Steven Stamkos scored the game winner for the Lightning during a 4 on 4 session that came in the middle of a 4 minute high sticking penalty to Matt Cooke. The penalty was Cooke’s first of the season and couldn’t have come at a worse time. Stamkos corralled a pass off the wall and got behind the Minnesota defense putting a shot off the cross bar and in against Josh Harding. Harding was playing in his 6th game in a row made several spectacular saves throughout the game to keep the Wild close. The Minnesota offense evaporated in the third period as they only managed 2 shots on goal after totaling 24 in the first two periods against 6’7″ goalie Ben Bishop of the Lightning. The score was 1-0 in favor of Tampa Bay when Ryan Suter headed in on a break away. The puck ending up on the stick of Nino Niederreiter who slid a pass to Wild Captain Mikko Koivu who buried the puck up high to tie the score at one 11:05 into the third period. Then came the Cooke penalty at 12:41 and the Stamkos goal a couple of minutes later. Tampa Bay tacked on a empty netter with 18 seconds to play. It was all over by then, except some pushing and shoving after the final whistle that earned Zenon Konopka of the Wild and B.J. Crombeen each unsportsmanlike penalties at the 20:00 mark of the third period. What is accomplished by assessing penalties at the end of the game? Bad Boy now go to the locker room.
The best player on the ice for the Wild tonight was net minder Josh Harding. He stopped 27 of 29 shots on the night, including a beauty against a two on one break by the Lightning that kept the score 1-0. Harding was strong in net all game long and gave his teammates a chance to win against a very talented Tampa Bay squad. Harding’s numbers on the season now read; record 3-2, goals against average 1.15, save %.946. Those are fantastic numbers, the last two I mean. If your goal tender puts up those kind of stats you have to get him some goal support. In his post game comments Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said, “you can’t expect to win many games when you only score 1 goal.” He’s right and when you look at the Wild’s secondary scoring, the line of Dany Heatley, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville were held scoreless once again. The third line of Matt Cook, Kyle Brodziak and Justin Fontaine had 1 shot on the night. The Wild are desperate for some secondary scoring on this road swing and in general. Minnesota is still getting plenty of shots on goal, at least through two periods tonight, it’s the finishing or puck luck or what ever you want to call it. The Wild have now scored 4 goals over their last three games putting up a 1-2 record. A 1.33 goals for won’t win you many games in the NHL. The Wild need more scoring, period.
In his post game comments Coach Yeo also addressed tonight’s penalties resulting in 7 power plays for the Lightning saying, “We’ve got to be smart too, their power play put us on our heels all night. We can’t take that many penalties and expect to win the game.” Minnesota’s penalty kill allowed the first goal of the game by Tampa’s Tyler Johnson and the game winner 4 on 4 to Stamkos. The Wild only had two power plays on the night and failed to score on either one. With the power play numbers that skewed in’t no surprise the Lightning took the two points.
The lone bright spot one the evening for the Wild was Captain Mikko Koivu‘s goal that extended his scoring streak to four games and tied him with Matt Cooke for the team lead in points. Koivu now has 1 goal and 5 assists so far this season. Another interesting tidbit about Koivu is the fact that he found a snake in the Wild’s dressing room before the game during the power play meeting. Yes, A REAL LIVE SNAKE. Not sure if it just slithered down there or if it was someone’s sick idea of a joke. Insert how the team is “snake-bit” offensively joke here.
Next up for the Wild are the Florida Panthers Saturday night. Hopefully the Wild can find some more offense between now and then. They’ve got the personnel, they’ve got the goalies, they just need some goals to get this season back on the right track. It’s hard to get to wound up over two losses in a row on the road this early in the season. Correct the issues now and all will be forgotten with several wins and a climb up the Central Conference standings. I’ll be back with a game preview of the Wild vs Panthers game Saturday morning right here on GonePuckWild.com. Until then this is Scott Drain still shouting, “Let’s Go Wild!”